MDHS LGBTIQ+ Health: Interdisciplinary and Interprofessional Student Forum
Animation by Carmody Forbes, 2020.
The Forum is an exciting opportunity for students in the MDHS faculty to come together and learn practical skills in working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, intersex, queer and asexual (LGBTIQA+) communities.
Delivered in-person and online across a one-day program on Saturday 3 July 2021, the Forum aims to provide emerging health practitioners, researchers, clinicians and professionals with key skills, knowledge, and awareness of LGBTIQA+ health issues and disparities. Participants will have the opportunity to work with community members to hone clinical skills and learn about safe and inclusive practice in a supported learning environment.
The Forum is being co-designed by students and community across all schools under the Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Faculty.
Dr Asiel Adan Sanchez is a GP with an approach to diversity that is very much grounded in a human-rights framework. They have a quiet determination to change attitudes and breakdown barriers that prevent people from engaging in healthcare systems. Find out more about Asiel here
Dr Megan Sharp is the MDHS Faculty Research Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion who has spent the last 10 years researching in the fields of queer health, leisure, work and music. Megan is a sociologist who is primarily concerned with interrogating structural and systematic inequities - and then breaking them down in individual ways. You can read more about Megan's work here
About The Project
This program aims to provide emerging health practitioners with foundational skills, knowledge and awareness of LGBTIQ+ health issues and disparities. The program is a one-day forum, co-designed by students from across MDHS in collaboration with key Faculty staff, delivered by LGBTIQ+ community partners and formally recognised through a completion certificate.
Teaching student health practitioners lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusion is complicated. Not least because the status of consistent reporting of health disparities among this population is fragmented across academic, government and community organisations (Haider et al. 2017). A 2017 survey of medical school curriculum administrators in Australia and New Zealand indicated most (60%) of medical schools dedicated 0-5 hours to LGBTIQ+ health in pre-clinical years. Most of this content focused on same-sex sexual activity (80%), with half of respondents (47%) being unsure whether trans and gender diverse was covered in their curricula (Adan Sanchez et al. 2017). What we do know is that globally, the health outcomes of LGBTIQ+ populations are poorer than that of heterosexual and/or cisgender populations (Zeeman 2019). At present, the University of Melbourne does not offer a subject or course with a focus on LGBTIQ+ health disparities.
Research into levels of confidence and comfortability of health care providers when working with LGBTIQ+ people suggests that very few feel equipped to incorporate gender and sexuality into their assessment and treatment (Beemyn & Rankin, 2016). Most health care providers are simply not asking patients about their experiences of gender and sexuality, or assuming heterosexuality and cisgender identities of their patients (Haider et al. 2017). Further, LGBTIQ+ tertiary students themselves are subject to disproportionate rates of marginalisation, discrimination and harassment than their heterosexual, gender conforming peers (Braun et al., 2017; Waling & Roffee, 2018). In higher education, many faculty, staff and students have minimal knowledge and understanding of LGBTIQ+ issues, particularly where transgender and gender diverse students are concerned (Beemyn & Rankin, 2016). Many universities do not offer institutional support in developing these competencies at all, leaving staff and student activism to compensate. As a result of a lack of research and enquiry, many within tertiary institutions tend to engage in exclusionary practices, often without any intent to do so.
Following an existing and evaluated model of delivery (Braun 2017), we see an interprofessional and interdisciplinary forum as an effective method for engaging students in LGBTIQ+ health care while embedding key objectives of MDHS learning and teaching strategies. Simple interventions such as the inclusion of one lecture and subsequent assessment on transgender health have been shown to decrease discomfort and increase skills for medical students engaging with transgender patients (Safer et al. 2013). We will draw on our existing relationships with community partners such as Transgender Victoria and Queerspace to fulfil a key learning objective: exposure to the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. A one-day forum, co-designed with student health care professionals from across the Faculty and championed by key Faculty staff would provide a robust learning experience for students who might not otherwise have access to LGBTIQ+ community health partners. By offering this forum to any student health practitioner within the faculty, we aim to bring together knowledges to foster a common goal: reducing health inequity for LGBTIQ+ populations.
Resources for Health Practitioners
Wavelength: A resource for medical students on the basics of LGBTIQA+ health
Trans Health Research: A resource for community, health practitioners and researchers on trans and gender diverse health
Equinox: Accessible written guidelines and information on gender affirmation
Intersex Human Rights Australia: Peak organisation for intersex advocacy, with plenty of resources ranging across health, ethics and law
MDHS LGBTIQ+ Health program is led
by Dr Megan Sharp and Dr Asiel Adan Sanchez.
Please contact them for more information.